Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 1

By Mark Mathabane

Chapter 1

  • The chapter begins with the text of a sign posted at the entrance of Alexandra, the black ghetto where Mark Mathabane grew up.
  • The sign declares that any person who passes into the area without a permit may be prosecuted for breaking the Bantu (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act of 1946. It meant that whites weren't allowed to enter by law.
  • Mark points out that 90% of white South Africans never see how blacks live, yet will declare that his blacks in South Africa are better off than Africans living in independent nations to the north and the east.
  • In 1984, as Mathabane wrote his book, Bishop Desmond Tutu prevented the government from razing all of Alexandra, though half of it had already been destroyed.
  • Mathabane describes the segregated neighborhood. Indians lived on First Avenue—the upper crust of the ghetto. Second, Third, and Fourth Avenues were where people of mixed-race ("Coloreds") lived, the second tier in social classes. And Fifth through Twenty-Third Avenues were left for the blacks, who were as "poor as church mice" (1.8).
  • The Alexandra that Mathabane grew up in was an old neighborhood, where Africans had been living ever since gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand.
  • In those days, there were plenty of opportunities for work, and Africans bought land and settled there, adopting Western culture and religion.
  • By the 1950s, there were 100,000 blacks, Coloreds, and Indians in the area.
  • Mathabane's father was Venda and his mother Tsonga. They met and married in Alexandra.
  • Mathabane was born shortly before the Sharpeville massacre, when 69 unarmed protestors were murdered by the South African police during a peaceful demonstration against the pass laws.
  • Those Pass laws were the essence of life under apartheid.

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